In 1896, the people of the State of New York established our Court by Constitutional amendment to improve the disposition of appeals in New York State. The creation of a strong and stable intermediate appellate court such as ours was a key concern. That the Appellate Division framework established over a century ago has remained largely unchanged is a testament to the wisdom of the Constitutional delegates who formed our Court and to the dedication of the many Justices and nonjudicial staff who have served our Court over the years.
As a division of the New York State Supreme Court, the origins of the Appellate Division can be traced back directly to 1691. In that year, the Colonial Assembly, organized under English rule, established the Supreme Court of Judicature, the antecedent of today's Supreme Court. Intermediate appellate jurisdiction was first lodged in the Supreme Court of Judicature, which was continued intact by the State's first Constitution, adopted at Kingston in 1777. Such jurisdiction was next lodged in the eight General Terms of Supreme Court by the Constitution of 1846. After the adoption of a reformed judiciary article of the Constitution in 1870, the State was divided into four judicial departments, the direct predecessors of today's four Appellate Division Departments. The Third Department was composed of the same three judicial districts (the Third, Fourth and Sixth) and counties as it is today. Four of the Third Department's first five Justices served on the reformed General Term after 1870.
The present Appellate Division, which supplanted the General Terms, was established by the Constitutional Convention of 1894. The person credited with formulating the Appellate Division framework was Elihu Root, chairman of the Convention's Judiciary Committee and later a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize after serving as both United States Secretary of War and Secretary of State.
For an in depth history of the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, click here.